Whylom, an esquire from England went
For to seek a connection for his King
So amongst the nobles and merchants he spent
His way through Genoa and Florence drinking,
All the while he, a lover of words, thinking
That, though he did his duty with much cheer,
He would that he could read for a year.
Young Chaucer, who, we must say, was not so young,
Found himself in Italy with two men
Who liked not the book but did words when sung.
They enjoyed the court and so they did attend,
Whilst Chaucer reading in his room did spend
A merry evening with old friends who long
Had he not seen, but whose words he heard in song.
Years before he had gone and seen two wed
As part of his duties to his Lord, there
He met a man about whom much has been said:
Petrarch, whose longing for Laura, is nowhere
Unknown. The two did merrily ensnare
Most of the food and much of the wine.
Thus they had a time that could be call’d fine.
Now finding himself once again i’the land
Of his erstwhile friend, Chaucer wished to read
Those sonnets about which he heard and so planned
His evening in his bed at a much slower speed
Than any his companions were sure to need.
Happily Geoffrey took up his friend’s book
And in its words of love pleasure he took.
But his meditation was not to last
As John and James into his rooms did shove.
Joking and laughing, they pulled him up fast,
Insisting that their deeds he would just love.
That there in Florence there was a scholar of
Just the sort of poetry Geoff did praise
And he they would hear and they would praise.
The subject was Dante; the scholar a man
Whose praises were sung for his own stories
Long had he worked so his fame would span
The whole of Europe for the words, his glories.
Boccaccio Geoff heard of throughout his forays
Onto the continent to deal with merchants
He longed to hear but not at pageants.
So followed he the Italians, Geoff so did
To the church wherein the master spoke
Explaining all the symbols Dante had hid
Within the words that his poem evokes
Even then they might not be clear to blokes
Who of this land knew not and who did not
Concern themselves with its trials a lot.
Geoffrey listened enraptured by the words
Learning that, through poetry, if one might,
One can show how men held high are quite turds
When they pay not attention to the sight
Of those who struggle and are affright
By the world and its horrors that nobles
And clergy the peasants’ deeds do hobble.
After the lecture Chaucer did him seek
The renowned bard whose discourse had engendered
Literary notions in the squire and made him speak
With the learned man. Geoffrey endeavored
To approach him, and mention that he had heard
That Boccaccio with Petrarch was friends,
That Petrarch to the poet would Geoff commend.
Geoff opened with a joke about Dante
Something light about eternal damnation
But Boccacio did not seem to want a
Blemish to be laid on the reputation
Of the man whose words filled him with elation.
Chaucer tried again, but his jokes fell flat
And was left bereft as if the bard had spat.
Geoffrey went back to his rooms and sighed
He had hoped to make inroads with elders
But they did not care for his humor, and cried
That he should not be permitted near betters.
Chaucer then determined to find letters
That might tell him the types of verses
He might use to keep statesmen from curses.
He went to the library of his great host
And pulled first Filostrato to read.
Days spent he out of sight as if a ghost
Reading and rereading the words as if by need.
The stories were enchanting but the creed
Was not to his liking, nor to his taste
Geoff thought they should be rewritten post haste.
The man who had written these bawdy tales
Resembled not the elder in whose presence
Chaucer had felt inspired to wail,
For the story had levity in its essence
And proved that its author had not ignorance
Of good humor told to make men think twice
And realize their deeds might just be nice.
Geoff now determined that Bo should know
That he had lost what he had once mastered;
His ribald wit would no longer show,
But Chaucer knew he still had it, that bastard.
So off to the bard he went and a bit plastered,
For wine of this ilk he’d not had since his youth
When father had it from Naples, in truth.
Upon the good man’s door he did pound
Not heeding the time, not caring the place.
He thought not of night or the lack of sound
And the gentleman opened the door with a mace,
Which he promptly swung at our hero’s face.
After realizing who he’d just attacked at the door
Boccaccio picked Geoff up off the floor.
“Why have you come here at this late hour?”
Demanded Boccaccio, “I thought my life
Was in harm.” Geoff’s stomach began to sour.
He knew in his heart that Phillip’, his wife,
Would dislike his coming like a thief in the night
But he could not stand that so funny a man
Had been reduced to the most witless in the land.
“I read your Decameron and laughed ‘til I cried.
I never knew plague could inspire in me
A joy and a longing for those who had died.
I read all your works. I am not your enemy.
I just needed to know what had caused this enmity
Of all you had done with your words and your jests
Why do you no longer laugh with the best?”
“You stupid boy, get away from my house.
Your jokes just aren’t funny. You’ve no taste.
I would sooner be tortured or eaten by a louse
During the time your prattle would waste.”
And Geoff could not believe what he faced
He turned and he marched him back home
He took to bed with some wine and a tome.
Years later, he thought to himself of the book
He had loved so much despite its author
And decided he’d have another look
At the story which had much to offer.
It seemed to be lacking. He thought “Why bother?”
And then came the best idea he’d yet had
He would make something good out of not quite bad.
Geoff pulled out his board and picked up his stylus
And told the story as it should have been.
He made it more awkward, the love artless
In its execution. He took the sin
And the tragedy of defeat and in
The end he made happy of what was sad
And redeemed those who’d been bad.
His version was better; he knew in his soul.
He loved the first, but improved the message
Geoff added Petrarch; he was on a roll.
He made it so Criseyde her image
Improved and he wrought out of the wreckage
A story of love and how it unites
The world, the tale told in a better light.
And if that bastard Boccaccio didn’t like it then that was his problem for not laughing at Geoff’s jokes.